ROME – Juventus, Atletico Madrid’s rival in the Champions League, notched on Sunday a 2-1 win on the road over second-place Napoli in the 26th week of Italy’s Serie A competition, thus taking a gigantic step toward the title and putting themselves 16 points ahead of their southern Italian rivals.
The league-leadingvisitors’ first-half goals by Bosnia’s Mirelem Pjanic and Germany’s Emre Can were the recipe for the win at Stadio San Paolo, and they were up a man when the first half ended after Napoli goaltender Alex Meret was booted in the 28th minute on a straight red card after fouling Cristiano Ronaldo – back from an ankle injury – outside the area as the Portuguese star was leading a drive.
Ronaldo had snatched a bad pass from Kevin Malcuit and looked to have a perfect scoring chance when Meret darted out to challenge him and he went down, although it was not clear whether the goalkeeper actually touched him.
Thereafter, Pjanic sent the curling free kick right into the net and just 11 minutes later Can hit the twine again for the visitors on a close-range header.
Pjanic was also kicked off the pitch on a second yellow card early in the second half for handling.
Napoli managed to cut their rivals’ lead in the 61st minute when Jose Callejon squeaked out ahead of defenders to pop a cross from team captain Lorenzo Insigne nicely into the net.
That gave the Naples squad encouragement whereupon they made a determined try for the tying tally, securing a penalty kick when Alex Sandro touched the ball with his hand, but Insigne’s shot hit the post six minutes before the final whistle and there was neither the time – depite five added minutes of injury time – nor the opportunity for a second chance at salvaging a draw.
With their 23rd league win of the year, Massimiliano Allegri’s boys jumped three points closer to their eighth consecutive Serie A “Scudetto” championship.
Juventus, which has three league draws but no defeats so far this season, goes up against Atletico Madrid on March 12, seeking to recover from its 2-0 Champions League loss to the Spanish squad.
This weekend, every Serie A match was halted briefly in the 13th minute to remember Fiorentina captain Davide Astori, who used to wear the jersey bearing No. 13, with Monday being the first anniversary of his death from cardiac arrest at the age of 31.